ACC football, basketball coaches looking to help early entrants

Of the 107 underclassmen who forfeited their final year of college football eligibility to enter last month’s NFL Draft, 30 were not selected.

That number will be even greater following next month’s NBA Draft. The league received 117 letters from players wishing to enter the draft before their college eligibility expired.

Yet, the draft consists of two rounds — 60 selections — of which many will be seniors and international players.

“The system right now is flawed and it doesn’t work well for anybody,” Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga said. “It doesn’t work well for colleges. It doesn’t work well for the NBA.”

Basketball and football coaches discussed the issue this week at the ACC spring meetings. The basketball coaches are reviewing the most recent legislation that allows underclassmen to return to school after declaring for the draft provided they have not signed with an agent. Football coaches wondered if something similar for their sport should be brought before the NCAA.

The bottom line: Both sports are looking for a way to help the athletes become better informed before making such an important decision.

“We definitely got to get better counsel for the kids,” FSU Athletic Director Stan Wilcox said. “That’s without question. For me, they’ve got to be more vested in their education because that’s what’s going to help them when they go to the next level.”

But colleges may be spinning their wheels when it comes to convincing athletes, from either sport, about the long odds of playing professionally. According to NCAA surveys, 52 percent of football players in the FBS believe it is likely they will play in the NFL and 1.6 percent actually play in the league.

Basketball players are ever bigger dreamers. About 76 percent of Division I players believe it is “somewhat likely” they will play professionally but just 1.2 percent of college basketball players are drafted.

While coaches from both sports are in favor of the athletes vetting the process as much as possible, the issue of timing as it relates to the recruiting calendar is problematic.

The final signing day for basketball is April 13, yet any player who does not hire an agent is allowed to attend the pre-draft camp in Chicago — which started Wednesday — before deciding if he wants to return. That leaves the coach unsure of how many scholarships are available if a player or two is deciding whether to bolt.

“There’s a lot that needs to be discussed,” said FSU basketball coach Leonard Hamilton. “Do I need more scholarships so I can absorb kids who take their time? Does the NBA know more on April 26 than they did on April 2? What’s best academically for kids trying to get their degrees?”

Florida State has had three underclassmen explore their draft options. Two — guards Dwyane Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes — announced just days later they were returning. Guard Malik Beasley is sticking to his decision and is projected as a potential lottery pick.

Football coaches discussed how something similar to the basketball model would impact their sport and the issue remains the same.

The current rule allow a football player to submit his name to a college advisory committee, which then returns a first round, second round or neither grade. Players make their request before the season is over and the deadline to declare for the draft is mid-January, about three weeks before signing day.

Allowing a player to attend the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis before making a more informed decision is unrealistic with the early February signing day.

“I don’t think you use the model that the NBA has,” Miami football coach Mark Richt said. “Guys declare, then you sign a class, then they want to come back and you don’t have room for him? What are you going to do, save room for a guy who may or may not come back? That would be tough to do.”

Wilcox sees even deeper consequences.

“If you go with a rule like that, you’re encouraging more people to try and test the draft,” Wilcox said. “A lot more of those kids could end up become ineligible because they’re listening to the wrong people.

“You wish you could come up with an ideal model.”

Staff writer Matt Porter contributed to this story.

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